So you want to become a video game journalist/critic/general blogger/etc., but you’re not exactly sure how to get started. This series contains my own personal advice to anyone who wants to worm their way into the video game community with the intention of transforming your writing into a career. While I’m still learning the rights and wrongs in the industry, I really want to share my experiences as they happen. Hopefully they will make things seem a bit clearer for anyone who is struggling.
Writing is work
The number one thing you need to remember is that your journey isn’t going to be simple. If it was easy then we’d all be successful journalists inside of a growing company. It’s a constant struggle. Building your name in the community is a chore. It’s frustrating. It’s intimidating. Sometimes it just plain sucks. If you can’t develop self-motivation then you may not get very far. In other words, prepare yourself for the worst and work for the best.
Writers struggle for a reason. Just like every other job, writing is very competitive. You have to not only be able to write well, you have to communicate well and build your name as if you are building a brand. Writing is never just writing. But there is nothing more rewarding than sharing your work with an appreciative audience.
Decide on your focus
Before you build you blog, you need to decide what your focus is going to be. If you’re reading this because you already know that you want to write about video games, then this process might be a bit more simple for you. Don’t skim over this step, though… picking a topic and sticking to it can be more difficult than you think!
I began my blog to post my poetry, and while I was slowly reaching an audience, it wasn’t what I wanted to do for several reasons.
- I couldn’t post consistent poems. In order to attract traffic to your blog, you need to publish regularly. We’ll focus on that later.
- There wasn’t a stable audience for poetry. While this might not be true for established poets who have published books, it was like running into a wall for me. Combine this fact with number one, and I was forced to go back to the drawing board.
Gaming was an easy subject to decide on simply for the fact that it covers a wide spectrum of things. However, make sure you don’t pick a subject that’s too broad. You also don’t want to focus on a subject that doesn’t offer some breathing room. This could hinder your ability to post regularly. If you’ve noticed, my blog has grown from strictly video game content to geek culture. This includes video games, movies, comics, television, and more, but there is always a particular theme that people can find when they visit.
In other words, I’m not going to write a review about Mass Effect and then turn around and post a recipe for an exotic cheeseburger. Once you develop your theme, stick to it! What do you want your blog to be known as? What kind of an audience do you want to attract?
Build your blog
The next step is building your blog. This includes your host, your theme, and the name of your blog. While this isn’t as important as the content you’ll be publishing, creating something a little eye-catching is never a bad thing. I obviously use WordPress because of it’s intuitive platform, easy customizable themes, and statistic feedback. But you might mesh better with Blogger or Tumblr. The choice is yours… but once you pick one, stick to it!
Think of a name for your blog. This is way more difficult than it needs to be (if you’re anything like me), but it’s not too overly important. My blog was simply called CKM (my initials) for the longest time simply because of how shaky my start was. PhoenixDown came much much later. Don’t dwell on it too much. Hopefully your content will carry more depth than the name of your blog.
Choosing a theme shouldn’t be difficult. It might be appealing to choose some major media-centered video game news theme with fancy sliders. Don’t do it. Not right now. You’re just starting out so your theme needs to be as simple as possible. Your focus should be the articles you publish, not eye candy.
When people visit your blog, they’ll be directed to your latest posts on your main page. However, it’s imperative that you make a few more pages for different things. The most important is your About page. It doesn’t have to be too extensive, but it could be a good idea to jot down your writing background. Why did you want to start writing about games? Is this blog simply a hobby or are you trying to find work in the industry? Have you written for any other websites? If so, include links. Don’t forget to include links to your social media and email address as well. I almost look at my About page as a mini, not-too-serious resume. Including your contact info and experience can be key to reaching the eyes of some important figures.
If you have to write about something other than your main topic, make a separate page for it. I have my own personal journal that I occasionally post in, and while it’s attached to my main page, it doesn’t distract my readers away from the main topic. You can also choose to make a completely separate blog, but I personally don’t recommend it.
Your first post
Your first post isn’t as critical as most people think, but you still need to be extremely careful. It’s so tempting to make an “introduction” post in order to talk a little bit about yourself and what you plan on writing about in the future. Don’t do it! Leave that to your About page and focus your posts on actual articles. People will learn what your blog is all about by reading through the content you post. Let them enjoy that exploration for themselves.
Now you’re ready to begin writing and developing an audience! Make sure you keep an eye out for Part Two and feel free to leave your own tips in the comments below!